"We all act on what we know, what we see, what we are told and how we feel. The simple fact of the matter is that not a single one of us operates under identical influences. That is why the future is always uncertain."
-Mark Hodder, "The Strange affair of Spring Heeled Jack"
28th February, 1838
It was fundamentally impossible for Hikken to have a peaceful Birthday, or rather, what classified as one. Luck would typically have it that he was born on a leap year.
One could have described his mood as rather jovial and actually very content to have partaken in the first bite of his rich chocolate cake (for one), after selecting a particularly exquisite Liqueur Muscat and pouring a drop into its dainty, preordained glass.
When the infernal tapping of his personal telegraph startled Hikken and caused him to splutter into the heady wine.
A rapid succession of blinks brought the Dutchman around to a modicum of composure, and setting down the plate, he wiped the streaks from his stubbled chin and cursed under his breath as a pensive ear listened to the coded taps intently.
The message was clear before the device had even printed its meaning, and the story gave Hikken pause as he set down the drink tentatively upon his gouged, parchment littered desk.
This all sounded very familiar to the young hunter, whose temperament darkened gravely as he recalled a recent, similar incident to the one that was currently being relayed through the telegraph:
A Miss Jane Alsop reported that on the night of 19th February, 1838, a man came to her door in a helmet and sporting the guise of a police officer. The figure requested she bring a light, as a mysterious being that had been terrorising the area by the name of 'Spring heeled Jack' was allegedly trapped in an alley by the Authorities. The girl did as she was bid, and followed the mysterious stranger with a candle, but when they pulled in to the dark, the 'Officer' had rounded on the poor thing and belched blue and white flames at her with blazing eyes. Nails of flint tore at her dress, and she ran from the beast who reportedly wore "A dark cloak and tight white oilskin beneath". Miss Alsop escaped with the help of her sisters, but Spring Heeled Jack had vanished.
Until tonight, apparently, eight days after the previous disturbing incident.
In this case, Lucy Scales and her sister had been walking home after visiting their brother in Limehouse, via Green Dragon Alley. Although exact details were apparently still being confirmed, the same shady figure approached the pair, and spat flames into Lucy's face. The teenager had been so out of sorts that she collapsed, blinded, to the ground and wrought with convulsions until her brother came running to their aid after hearing a commotion from his home.
True to the previous case, the form sported a dark cloak, and was apparently tall and thin, possibly gentile and in possession of a lamp... But he was undoubtedly dangerous.
These were of course not isolated occurrences, and Hikken hummed thoughtfully as the sheet was tacked to the expansive chart that spread across his furthermost wall with a brassy pin. The case had expanded near exponentially over the past few months, with sightings of this Supernatural acrobat springing up (literally) left, right and centre.
For the most part, descriptions of this allegedly demonic attacker seemed to carry common traits, and it also became clear to the astute young man that this was no coincidence, bringing a note of credibility to this whole ordeal as each account matched up nearly perfectly in terms of physical profile and the blaggard's behaviour. Despite this, Spring heeled Jack's path had been impossible to track outside of anecdotal evidence, but that was before the Dutch man had arrived in the country to break some ground himself.
Along with Ira the Great Dane, Hikken had gathered a few titbits of his own, including scorch marks from brickwork at previous crime scenes, and a snatch of white oilskin from Miss Alsop's own tattered gown. They were making inroads into this mystery, and the presentation of fresh evidence spurred the clever young man into action, mind blazing with an ardent spark of conviction.
Cake forgotten, the little glass of liquid courage was promptly quaffed in a single glug, and the enormous dog was summoned with a sharp whistle through his master's uneven teeth. The hound bounded in, black coat glossy in flickering lamp light, and stood to attention Hikken's uneven heels, the picture of absolute loyalty.
"Come Ira, we have demons to vanquish." He murmured good naturedly as his lengthy, dark brown coat was plucked from a stand, and a soft leather roll was grasped in his white knuckled fist, rattling with who knew what within the ominous embrace of beaten material.
When the preparations were completed (in under a minute, no less), the lithe little tracker pulled the door of his temporary abode shut with a slam, and took to the menacing London streets with a vehement vigour that only the prospect of defeating insidious creatures could stoke within his belly, lending a lightness to his now evenly clattering steps. Leather cased fingers creaked, tight with anticipation.
Under the scant guidance of filthy street lamps, Van Hikken and his furious hound set out to obliterate the terror that was Spring Heeled Jack, and free this dank city from those heinous, ghastly clutches once and for all.
It had been at least half a century since Jack Frost last spiralled through the late winter air over good old London town. As spires and chimneys sprawled below him, it become abundantly clear that this place had grown exponentially into a thriving, noisy city. Not to mention that the atmosphere had taken on a silty quality that at lower altitudes dusted his fine white hair with soot.
"Good gracious, what a sight," The mucky sprite laughed, a mistake as smog entered his grinning mouth and incurred a short coughing fit. "Am I supposed to fly or swim through this ilk?"
Regardless, it was a pattern he had witnessed at higher vantages on his route to the capital, with billowing clouds in a particularly thick blanket over the North, where one could suspect it originated.
Below the smog however, the air was chill and crisp, and the season wasn't quite old enough to exclude possibilities of a freak blizzard, Jack mused with a sly curl of his lip. At last, buildings near the centre seemed tall enough that he might leap between them, feel the slates and stone beneath his soles after such a long commute across wind lashed waves. The little Ghost could still experience fatigue after all, and controlling the winds required more effort than one might anticipate.
The roof tops didn't disappoint, rough and real beneath his toes as he slid to an edge and peered over the precipice.
Greasy light pushed itself through the thick, oily darkness as he looked out on to the silhouetted city scape and eventually in the alley beneath his nose. As it happened, two shadows clung and slunk across the opposite to a wall, closely followed by man-shaped figure and what seemed to be a black beast of some kind. From his vantage point, the inquisitive sprite couldn't make out the details, so naturally he decided to hop down and investigate.
In his extensive life, nothing he ever said or did brought Jack any attention, invisible to the public oblivious to his existence, (bar a snow storm or two in the summer which always earned a cackle or two). This was why his step barely broke when he dropped in on an icy air cushion, directly before what he now saw to be a young, surprisingly shaggy haired gentleman and his dog striding through the lamp light. The curious spirit was silent in his descent, and stood just outside the sputtering yellow puddle that the pair had paused in to inspect an item the human half kept at his side. Jack was just about to take an easy step forward, confident with the sure guise of invisibility, when the human shivered and turned to stare into the dark beyond his protective circle of sickly illumination.
Now that he saw his casual quarry in full view, the Sprite noticed that one leg was not like the other, a rudimentary shape of a foot loaded with metal springs. Both ankles sported an odd attachment, affixed not unlike spurs to the backs of his Achilles tendons. From where he stood it was hard to make out exactly what they were supposed to be, nor did he have time to figure it out.
Distracted by the odd stranger's lopsided ankles, Jack's sharp blue gaze failed to notice the brass item until it glinted in the gloom, oddly level with his head. Funny, it was almost as if this man could-
Were it not for his supernatural reflexes, that silvery crown would have splattered like a cantaloupe against the grimy cobbles. Instead, he flipped back on to a dust bin, an orange aurora scorched into his vision and a ghostly reminder of what could have gone through his skull.
While Jack assumed he was ghostly in most ways, it was impossible to know if he was truly immortal, and he certainly didn't want to test this theory with an incendiary round to his frontal lobes.
He blinked rapidly to shoo the spots away, but already his assailant had finished reloading and aimed again, hammer pulled back, ready to slam down and send another peal of concentrated thunder into the alley.
As if Jack didn't have enough problems, this psychopath decided to sic that truly monstrous dog on him, jowls stringy with saliva, but with vicious teeth bright and terrible in their sharpness. The beast leapt an incredible height and only missed the startled sprite's wrist by an inch as his jaws snapped together. Jack barrelled to the left, and jumped between the narrow walls in terror, to get out of reach and range from this frightening duo on bare heels honed by repetition and magical stamina.
His elegant twists and quick footwork meant that the subsequent shots from that peculiar triple barrelled pistol missed him by threads, but this assailant was a truly excellent marksman. As Jack ascended and caught a final glimpse, the man clicked his own metal framed heels together in a prim and oddly queer fashion before flashing out of his field of view.
At last, after finding himself somewhat safe on the roof tops, the flustered spirit shouldered his crook and bolted across them, wishing never to lay eyes upon that maniac ever again.
"Holy moly, what a weirdo," He grunted under his breath as gap after gap was effortlessly cleared in this closely packed neighbourhood. "Good thing he's a cripple, because there's no way he'd-"
A deep bark echoed from the alleys that ran adjacent to his path, but the runner on the roofs didn't worry: Even that creature would never be able to scale a building and reach him up here (Much less his master), and he focussed back on his current trajectory and to his interrupted thoughts.
That was until a metallic clatter arrived not far behind the gruff bestial bellows, like thunder after a lightning strike. They picked up their pace, and Jack skidded and paused despite himself, a morbid curiosity anchored his toes to the slates as he leant at a gutter.
"Halt, onreine Geest!"
As he glanced back over the gables, a bullet whizzed past his cheek and deafened him temporarily in one ear as it shrieked by. This surprise rapidly devolved into terror as the spirit saw its origin, a man who was covering far more ground than we ever thought possible.
Jack was rooted there, awestruck, mouth slack with dismay as he watched his assailant for a moment longer on lifted silver soles, and rapidly sprinting his way as if he also had the winds under his control.
Before Jack could even comprehend how this human could perform such a feat, he saw the relentless man tic-tac between the alley walls once-twice-three times, and take another object into his right hand from the confines of his coat. It fired, and again the spirit dodged, unable to contain a glimmer of spiteful mirth: If the human had only just shot his gun, and expended the other contraption with a disappointing clank behind him, then there was no possible way he could reload: The ledge fell short a good yard and he would fall straight back to earth at this angle.
"Ha! You missed!"
With a humourless flash of teeth, Jack raised his crook in triumph and watched as his pursuer did indeed fall... Only to notice a shimmer beside his shoulder.
A thin wire filament that had wound itself around a dilapidated chimney stack but held. The wire drew taut and a faint, silken rasp seemed to approach immediately from the other direction.
The hunter's descent lasted mere moments, and provided adequate slack on the line for his next move.
Cheaply painted brick was mercilessly gouged as Hikken directed his rapid climb up the building's side, aided by the metal toe of his prosthetic leg, far hardier than his other boot. The speed pushed his hair back, and painted his lightly tacky countenance in shadow and determined creases. Rapidly the gutter approached and his finger held firm on the trigger-
He kicked back against the wall, away from the gutter that would have cracked his skull at this velocity and cleared it, the line increasingly taut but enough to move in a smooth arc, up and away. The Grapple gun ceased pulling for a moment, allowed a beat of hang time, partially inverted. Hikken's target on the roof top looked as if he'd seen the devil himself, but raised his weapon, its tip encased in blue and white lightning as it charged.
Not that a seasoned hunter like the Dutch man would ever allow that threat to make contact.
Without another moment wasted, the trigger finger compressed once more, and Hikken's resumed his acceleration. He righted himself with a twist of his hips and dove like a falcon along a sixty degree angle.
The Blue crackles were no match in speed for the mechanically coiled wire, and subsequently eclectic, metal studded feet planted in Jack's chest. The sprite gave a wheeze as the full shock of that mighty kangaroo kick travelled through his ribs, the pain somewhat lessened by what he could have noted to be springs of some kind. Nevertheless, he tumbled back off the gable, rolled and plummeted into the narrow gorge between these houses.
Any being worthy of the gift of flight should be acquainted with both gravity, and its painful effects. Jack was accustomed to both, and knew how to take a fall, though that wasn't to say it still didn't hurt. Gasps and curses followed as he bounced from one wall to the other, taking impacts that may well have skinned a mortal and perhaps even broken their brittle bones. But these rules did not apply to an ageless youth such as Jack, so all he endured was phantom nausea, disorientation and wounded pride. Possibly a scar to his ego.
How dare he. How dare he! I am a force of nature, I am the winter Prince, I- "Uh oh."
With anger and adrenaline urging his aged bones to rise, Jack had only a beat to instinctively vault, using his crook as a lever just as those cursed metal feet threatened to pulverise his cranium. Having expended his wire on the chimney stack, the psychopath grabbed its end and slid down to adequately shorten his drop and those miraculous mechanical soles absorbed the shock, even if their owner intended the rest of his fall to be subdued by a soft body.
Hikken folded only briefly in his crouch as he felt Ira leap over his head, and reached into his jacket to withdraw yet another weaponised wonder: A tiny crossbow. With a crank.
The hunter snapped his head up, fingers working the delicate reel just a few more times for reassurance and unfurled into a low run, eyes on Ira as the silver devil swiped with those wicked white and blue crackles in a rage. The Great Dane was an even greater fighter, and never derailed from his mission: Whatever his partner needed, it would always feel as if the other intrinsically knew what was required, and to this effect Ira knew that Hikken needed a distraction. This the hound would deliver: Ultra marine sparks chimed over his raised hackles, but the staff's butt caught him in the belly, pulling free a whine.
The dog went skidding, and his friend's ferocity only roiled to compensate. This creature's agility and the blue and white flames... There was no denying that it was the hunter's target.
It was Spring Heeled Jack.
"Godverdomme, Gedrocht!" Hikken cursed, and wove beneath a deft sweep from Jack's staff, only to straighten and deliver and elbow to the cursed being's sternum. Again, the silver Devil reeled back in surprise, dropped his weapon and found himself backed up against a fence that blocked up the ginnel from its connected street, staff lost in tangles of shadows.
Ira had recovered now, and stalked ever closer to the now unarmed prey in his sights, a deep growl rumbling like a bottled hurricane in his throat. Hikken's temperament wasn't dissimilar, except his silence was far more eerie, each step measured and frighteningly quiet as he watched Jack squirm, nervous against rotten, mildewed boards.
"Nu ontkom je me niet, duivel."
That tone. That single, simple sentence was delivered to Jack with far more ice than he could ever conjure, and unfortunately, its meaning was not lost on him. Helpless and perhaps more fearfully than pride would let him admit, the spirit raised his pallid hands, palms and vein strewn wrists bare and non-threatening as he shuffled through a library of languages filed away inside him.
"Alsjeblieft!" He pleaded, eyes round as they beseeched an ounce of mercy from the monster who now paused in his approach, weapon raised.
Upon its appearance, Jack's brow lofted, and he forgot himself, but not his Dutch.
"What is that thing, a pin launcher? Are you going to prick me to death?"
Truly, the gadget was tiny, and had an arrow affixed in its bow that could have been no larger than a match stick.
"Not to offend, but do I look like Sleeping beau-?"
The Mischievous spirit had to swallow his chuckle, because if after such an exhaustive and elaborate chase, this mad man wanted to off him with such a ridiculous weapon? Jack didn't now whether to be insulted or entertained.
His merriment was soon swept away when the impossibly fine bolt loosed itself with a little 'plink!' and lodged itself beneath Jack's pale jaw. Immediately afterwards, an epileptic frenzy seemed to invade his vision and sent his weedy limbs thrashing in kind, no longer within his control. Convulsions were erratically to fed to Jack's unprepared nerves via thin copper wires connected to the close range mini bow.
Another product of an over active and ultimately paranoid mind, Hikken always wound his 'Volt-Bolt' at least two hundred times to generate a body dropping shock before any given outing, but also supplemented with a few more in the field, just to be safe.
One couldn't be too careful about the sustained charge and integrity of a dynamo battery, after all.
Curiously, Hikken cocked his head as he tried to make sense of what he had just heard. This must have been the demon all right, because he clearly possessed the gift of tongues. But as the figure shuddered and spasmed over the cobbles, the hunter's head tilted the other way to look at his fallen prey more closely. Ira had padded in and sniffed at a crown of immaculate platinum hair, windswept and tousled by the elements.
The bolt unstuck itself from its temporary lodging in Jack's neck, and zipped back on its retractable coil into Hikken's readied palm.
He tucked it away and re-armed himself with an old, reliable stand by: A stake of purest silver plate and sturdiest steel shrank within the holy metal. It extended telescopically and was kept waiting in Hikken's palm, but when he bundled Jack up by the collar, hesitation seized and delayed his strike.
Upon closer inspection, the one he held was smudged with soot and grime, but was not a fire blasted being as the hunter originally gleaned him to be. Weak trembles skittered across slender extremities, and Hikken saw that this was the form of a boy, perhaps in appearance a year or two younger than himself, thin and lanky as a runner bean... And incredibly fair.
Did I just assault an adolescent?
In addition to this, there was no oilskin or lantern in sight-
No! This has to be him: You saw the blue flames and acrobatics, there can be no doubt.
Jack's twitches had begun to reside completely, and past his involuntary snarls and creases of pain, a smooth, pale face revealed itself, near translucent with its cool, pallid complexion. There wasn't a single deep crevice of age, but instead a palpable exhaustion that painted his eye sockets and lips with bruises. Ice tipped Jack's downy tufts, lashes and sallow cheeks, and as he gave a weighty groan, a puff escaped his mouth... Not hot, but bewilderingly cold as Hikken braved lifting his gloved fingers to catch the residue.
They crunched as he balled his hand into a fist, and turned to Ira, who panted lightly now, all big, bright eyes and lolling tongue. Whatever threat there had been, it fled now with the lowering of Ira's hackles. His partner was never wrong about the true nature of their quarries, supernatural or not, and this was obviously not the one Hikken was looking for.
"Damn it all." He cursed, and released Jack's shirt so that the blizzard headed boy's skull and teeth unceremoniously clacked against the cobbles. Of all things, this was the one that brought the Sprite to his senses. His bright gaze flew wide open, and he impulsively made to scramble up and away when a none-too- friendly stake point pressed into his Adam's apple. The skin stretched thinly over it was traced with a hot red line when he swallowed.
No time was wasted as Hikken settled swiftly upon his captive's shins. Although this abomination may not have been Spring Heeled Jack, it was certainly a creature of unnatural origin, and in the hunter's eyes more than worth an interrogation.
Unable to currently shift the bulk of his captor off, Jack nervously raised his eyes, feeling worse than naked without his crook. The dog had scampered away for the moment, sniffing around in boxes and shadows as if intent on the retrieval of something unspoken by his master.
"So... Sorry about bad mouthing your Pea shooter. It packs quite the punch." The skittish sprite offered tremulously. Under normal circumstances, his tone would have been caustic and confident, but this was not something he could even pretend to summon. The hunter's stolid mask didn't even twitch.
His hold on the blessed stake was resolute.
So... yeah. Historically based Monster hunter AU. :3
A short Running series that has been rolling around in the back of my mind for a while. It will probably span three chapters.
Huge thank you to the Lovely Livori for providing the Dutch Translations. Please visit her equally awesome tumblr, she's a talented lady.
Also thank you to HijackSpace and BasicallyDragonbait for allowing me to pound them with idea dodge balls. :'D (They have super cool tumblrs, too.)
- Bubbles. Xx
The translations are as follows:
"Zoek, Ira!"= "Seek Him, Ira!"
"Halt, onreine Geest!" = "Halt, unholy ghost!"
"Godverdomme, Gedrocht!" = "God damn it, monster!"
"Nu ontkom je me niet, duivel."= "Now you can't escape from me, Devil."